“I would like 30 people dressed as various cruciferous vegetables to appear on stage every time I clap my hands twice.”
Ginger Tart is one of those performers who can take a small idea and build it, grow it, mushroom it, snowball it, mash it altogether with tons of fun, and play around with it until it turns into something huge and colourful and strange and important. And that’s probably an understatement!
A solo performer in her own right, Ginger also performs as part of the Saucy Pear Cabaret and produces Oxford’s burlesque/drag cabaret show, OxPHOARd.
As you’ll read, Ginger is not only bold and beautiful and fierce and feminist, she also has incredible ideas when it comes to her ideal show…something that would probably replicate the hallucinogenic experience of a drug not yet known to man!
In short, Ginger’s pretty damn hallucidelic!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ginger Tart!
How did you get started in burlesque/cabaret?
It’s something I’ve always been interested in – I remember insisting that my friends join me for a burlesque taster class for my 18th birthday. I’ve always been a performer, but the whole cabaret/burlesque thing clicked for me after seeing an amazing comedy burlesque performer at the Edinburgh Fringe and East End cabaret.
I started off as a double act and roped my friend Ollie in to join me. Our first performance was an incredibly ambitious 20 minute set, complete with an original song about willies, a burlesque tribute to Dita Von Teese and her martini glass routine (only the martini glass is 15cm tall!), a spoken word piece and a strip battle! Somehow it all pulled together even though we had no idea what we were doing and it was a thoroughly cracking show! The past two years I’ve also gotten into drag and the two art forms now blend sort of seamlessly for me.
Your acts look like a lot of fun. Tell us about them and all that they entail:
Oh my lordy loo. My favourite act at the moment is probably my Lesbian Shark Attack Cruise Ship Love Affair act. I play a misunderstood shark who is desperate to make it in the cabaret business and is currently working on a cruise ship. I wear this full body shark costume with a movable mouth which I puppet to lip sync the song “Somewhere Beyond the Sea”. Part way through the number I start coughing and gagging, only to keel over on stage. Slowly, you see a human hand emerge from the shark’s mouth.
A dishevelled cruise ship worker climbs out of the shark declaring it’s the “worst cruise ever”. She goes to leave, only to look over the to the shark and realise that, in spite of everything, she loves her. She goes to the shark and they share an incredibly campy lip-sync love duet. They go in for a passionate, Hollywood style kiss. The more they get into it, the more evident it becomes that the shark is eating her again. She screams and runs off stage with the shark still eating her head. Fin.
[MG: Wow! Now. That. Is. EPIC!]
How do you go about developing your ideas and acts?
The smallest ideas can set me off. I was once driving when the song “I Want to Know What Love is” began to play on the radio. I started to think “that’s so sad, not knowing what love is.” I then thought to myself “that must be how broccoli feels.” And thus I developed the only broccoli-themed striptease act in the world. The character has this “nice guy” mentality that they’re good for you, but nobody wants Broccoli because they’re not cool. It started as a double act with Chocolate as the counterpart bad boy you want even though they’re bad for you.
The act is now a solo act to Weird Al’s “Eat It”, where broccoli is tired of being consistently underrated and wants you to suck it up and EAT IT- the costume is made of over 5000 pom poms with a 6 ft tall fork.
What’s the funniest/craziest/best thing you’ve seen and/or done on stage?
Apart from regurgitating myself from a shark or grabbing fistfuls of broccoli from my pants and throwing them at the audience? I honestly don’t know. I’ve licked audience members, I glued lettuce to my tits because I forgot my brussel sprout bra, I built a full on time machine for a show once (complete with honking horn and a drinks holder). I don’t know how I could top all of that, but I’m sure I’ll find a way!
One of the favourite things I saw on stage was LeopardLass setting her assels on fire to Bootylicious. It was everything I love about cabaret- totally extravagant, dangerous, and thoroughly unnecessary in every way! It’s pure decadence in the name of entertainment.
Tell us about OxPHWOARd – what is the idea behind it, how long has it been running, what kind of show is it, and who and what can people see there?
I moved to Oxford a couple of years ago and was forlorn to find that there wasn’t a cabaret scene here. I produced my first show about a month into performing cabaret and it was a disaster, but since then I’d gained a lot of performing experience and had been quietly observing how other producers ran their shows, what worked, and what didn’t. This was the perfect opportunity to start afresh and host more. I knew I had to create something authentic to my style of cabaret: something fresh and fun and silly, but also fierce, feminist and queer. It had to be a safe space for people from all walks of life, regardless of gender, sexuality, size, age or race and I think that ended up being reflected in who showed up.
I also wanted to invest in one high level performer who would really reflect what the show was all about: Rubyyy Jones. Their high energy, campy, in your face, unapologetic femme fierceness was the exact message I wanted to go for and I knew they would absolutely blow the audience away and leave one hell of an impression. It worked, and after some trial and error with marketing, I now have a sell out show with one of the most amazing, diverse, loving audiences I’ve ever met. I adore them, and they adore the fierce, bizarre, subversive, camp wonder that is OxPHWOARd. The show organically became more drag-inspired and we always have the most kickass headliners, from Meth to Marnie Scarlet, to Kiki Lovechild to Cinebra or Dis Charge. We’ve had some crazy themes and there’s no other night quite like it!
What is Oxford like for cabaret?
Once OxPHWOARd started a few other things began to kick off. Haute Mess is a student-run drag-inspired club night, and is one of the most creative queer havens I’ve ever seen! The Scarlet Vixens have recently come back to Oxford and are putting on some really interesting and fabulous burlesque shows. On top of that, other groups are getting into it and there are lots of pop up events which are embracing drag and burlesque like queer night Molly and Harleking’s Queer Cabaret.
Our standard imagination explosion question: If you had an unlimited budget and you could create and host a show featuring any line up, any scenery, design and venue, and perform at any place in the world at any point of time (including the past), what would you do, what would it look like, where would you perform it, and finally, what would you wear!?
It would be as ridiculous as humanly possible. I’d want to do it now because I think we live in exciting times on the cusp of social revolution and I’d want to do something to propel that forward. I’d want a sea of people in sparkly tuxedos to carry me about and be my backing dancers and singers. I’d want to be flown onto stage with hundreds of confetti cannons going off. I would like 30 people dressed as various cruciferous vegetables to appear on stage every time I clap my hands twice. My cast would be a diverse cast of subversive cabaret legends leading the social revolution, with each act being made as showstopping and awe-inspiring as possible. They would all have access to my army of sparkly tuxedo people and cruciferous vegetables of course. What would I wear? I have no idea but every item would tear away in a flurry of glitter and my shoes would be filled with Skittles in case I need a snack.
What are the most the important things that you’ve learned through your adventure so far?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I’m super ambitious and could never have achieved all of this on my own. But also don’t waste your time on people who are flaky and unreliable- it’s more stress than it’s worth. Find someone who’s reliable and stick to them like glue. I recently got an assistant called Matylda and she has saved my life! Turns out you can totally produce a show without sobbing and hyperventilating if you have support.
Also, I’ve been true to myself the whole time with my show, my acts and my hosting. I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s a real warmth and sincerity in everything I do and I think that draws people in. Also I try to be very aware of social issues and I find everyone’s so much more at ease knowing that they’re in a safe environment.
What is coming next for you and your shows this year?
I’m so excited that we’re officially part of Oxford Pride this year. We’re based in a real theatre for once and we’re currently applying for Arts Council Funding to make it the biggest, baddest show ever. I’ve also recently formed the Oxfordshire Drag Collective to help foster new talent and develop existing talent, and we’re going to be turning it out on the main Pride stage with a huge lip sync extravaganza.
I’m travelling more and have my first international gig in Dublin next week! Personally, I want to create even more silly and surreal acts, but I also want to create things with an unapologetic fierce femme energy and a political slant. Perhaps I’ll find a way to combine the two: hairy feminist broccoli anyone?
MG: Sounds like a heck of a lot of fun! Altogether now, let’s say…OXPHHHHOARRRRRRRRD!
You can find out more by swishing along to gingertart.co.uk
The next OxPHWOARd show is on 30th March. Event details can be found on the OxPHWOARd Facebook page.
A Touch of Vintage Photography
Tony Barrett Powell